Physical Therapy for Women's Bladders

Bladder control among women improves with physical therapy treatments

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Trouble holding it? For women, physical therapy can help them have less pain and better control of their bladder. About two-thirds of women felt much better after getting physical therapy, according to a new study. The more therapy women can get, the better the results.

Researchers said that physical therapy reduced both stress related to symptoms and the impact it has on everyday living among women.

"Use the bathroom when needed."

Their aim was to see how well physical therapy helps reduce problems with urinary incontinence, or difficulty holding the bladder. They also wanted to see what kinds of patient behaviors were linked to successful treatment.

The study, led by Jodi Dusi, PhD, program director of the physical therapy program and associate professor in the Department of Health Science at California University of Pennsylvania, included 100 female patients with trouble holding their bladder.

The women sought physical therapy for their urinary incontinence between November 2009 and November 2010 in Pennsylvania. After a physical examination, they were surveyed on their urinary, bowel and other pelvic symptoms before and after physical therapy, as well as their quality of life.

They commonly reported having pain in their pelvis, constipation, low back pain and irritable bowel syndrome.

The physical therapy was designed to help reduce pain in their pelvic floor muscles, increase strength there as well as in the abdomen and extensor muscles, and improve how well the spine and pelvis can move. Physical therapy also included education on how to manage fluids, train the bladder and bowels and modify the diet.

Researchers also measured how well the patients could hold their bladder using digital vaginal palpation, or a device that is inserted into a woman's vagina. They found that about 66 percent of women reported improved symptoms after successful physical therapy. These women were about nine years younger on average than the rest of the group and had more physical therapy visits.

The patients reported that their symptoms were "much better" after the therapy, researchers found. Distress in their pelvic floor muscles also decreased after therapy.

"An important finding of this investigation was that nearly half of the women studied reported UI and other coexisting pelvic symptoms," the authors wrote in their report.

"We observed that physical therapy intervention provided in a pragmatic setting resulted in statistically significant reductions in both symptom-related distress and symptom impact scores."

Symptoms improved depending on the number of times patients went to therapy. Being physically able to follow therapists' recommendations and finding the time to do what was needed also affected how fast symptoms improved. But the number of symptoms each woman had did not affect the success rate of their treatment. Seventy-one percent of patients had at least one problem facing them when attending treatment.

The authors note they studied a small number of people, all who came from one outpatient physical therapy company. The study was published in the May and August 2012 issue of the Journal of Women's Health Physical Therapy. No funding information was available. 

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Review Date: 
November 24, 2012
Last Updated:
November 29, 2012